The dedicated and passionate employees at Southwest Transplant Alliance and Outlive Yourself Foundation work tirelessly to advance our mission and to help save lives. For many, the passion is personal – many of our employees have a connection to organ donation that drives them to keep doing the work we do here. Lynsey Jacobs is an Internal Quality Auditor at STA, and, for her, working here was fated.
Lynsey’s sister Elyssa (Ellah) was a healthy little girl until the age of 15 months, when a virus destroyed her heart muscle and she received a life-saving heart transplant. At the age of six, she developed an autoimmune disorder that required frequent blood transfusions and many hospitalizations. During Ellah’s senior year of high school, the doctors began to see changes in her bone marrow and, after finishing her first semester of college, the doctors discovered she had developed myeloid dysplastic syndrome (MDS) – most easily described as bone marrow failure.
The MDS required a bone marrow transplant. By the grace of God, Lynsey was a perfect match! After recovering from the bone marrow transplant, Ellah returned to college, but she wound up developing a severe outbreak of shingles and was hospitalized for two weeks. After recovering, she was able to attend camp as a counselor at Camp Moss – her most favorite place on earth! She has been a camper there every summer since she was nine. While at camp she became very fatigued, and when she got home, she was examined and diagnosed with severe heart failure and admitted to ICU.
The heart failure was caused by severe acute rejection – her right ventricle not functioning as needed. The rejection was most likely caused by the shingles virus revving up her immune system with antibody production to fight the shingles outbreak. While in the process of combating the virus her immune system also attacked her heart. Ellah was in the ICU for a weeks. The antibody production was so severe and her heart was so severely damaged that the doctors originally believed she would need to be listed for another heart transplant.
Unfortunately, it quickly became evident that the antibodies were so severe that Ellah was not a candidate for a new heart. Her doctors worked diligently to try and stop the antibody production. After weeks of plasmapheresis treatments to remove the antibodies from her blood and chemo therapy drugs it became evident that the process could not be slowed. Ellah researched all her options – including extreme surgeries and more chemo. She never gave up hope, but the choice was made to come home with a continuous infusion of a heart drug and to be followed with hospice care. Ellah remained in control of her life until the very end and beyond by even planning parts of her own memorial service. Ellah’s true sprit rarely wavered and she managed to smile and joke until just a few hours before she left us on December 3, 2013.
When Lynsey saw a job opening at STA, she knew she had to work there. STA was a big part of Ellah’s life when the family moved to Dallas, she would often participate in recipient family events hosted by STA and enjoyed volunteering to spread the word about organ donation. It means the world to Lynsey that she can work somewhere that treated Ellah with care and kindness and also has such a critical mission.
Lynsey keeps Ellah’s memory alive with a “Day of Kindness” each year on Ellah’s birthday. Ellah loved life – she said there was still so much she wanted to do. She loved to dance, paint, read, play with her puppies and spend time with her friends. She was a sweet soul that loved others and never complain
ed about the hand she’d been dealt. Ellah was arguably one of the KINDEST people you would ever meet. Despite all of the obstacles life threw her way she never once lost hope or lost her ability to be nice. She was the definition of selfless. Each year, for Ellah’s birthday on September 26th, Lynsey and her family invite friends, family and community to participate in a day of kindness in her memory. We’d love to extend that invitation out to the rest of our employees and all of our supporters as well! On September 26, we invite you to give a genuine compliment, pay for a stranger’s coffee, or call up a long-lost relative. Anything that spreads kindness is encouraged!
Please share with us what you did by either posting in the Ellah’s Day of Kindness Facebook Event this event or on your personal page (in a public post) using #EllahsDayofKindness so we can see how far this goes!
You can find more about Ellah’s story HERE.